Licking Wounds – catharsis through chaos

From fairly early on, power electronics has been the province of edgy white dudes. In recent years, some great artists have emerged, subverting the genre’s tropes. Straight Panic’s queer-framed eviscerations of mainstream culture and its abuses of cishet privilege and Ritual Chair’s cathartic exploration of sexual violence and patriarchal oppression are two of the more vital examples of this reframing.

Licking Wounds is the duo of Ritual Chair’s Hailey Magdeleno and Matt Hex (best known for his Bonemagic project). As in Ritual Chair, Magdeleno gives us her voice, providing harrowing narratives that explore the complex range of feelings behind being a victim of sexual assault. Hex offers support in the form of electronics that are alternately subtle and extreme, complimenting the diverse emotions Magdeleno lays bare.

Hex’s and Magdeleno’s sonic accompaniment is near-telepathic in its ability to shift textures in response to and in union with the vocals. This visceral backdrop provides empathy, a vibe not often associated with power electronics and harsh noise. This subversion of much of PE’s hyper-masculine emotional distancing from subject matter is powerful and instructive. 

I will refrain from quoting from Magdeleno’s aural essays, as her words more than speak for themselves, and must be taken within the full context of the recordings for full impact. As a fat old white guy, I can’t begin to comprehend the steadfast bravery involved in confronting perpetrators’ actions and resolving victims’ internalized guilt and shame. Magdeleno’s will to share her stories is infinitely appreciated across a noise community that is increasingly diverse and inclusive – the rawness of her performances at last year’s Kansas City Noise Fest resonated deeply with the audience. 

Licking Wounds is an intensely personal statement, yet never feels voyeuristic. It is the sound of empowerment and healing, filtered through the reality of pain, anger, and revenge. That said, this is a hard listen. There is no sugar-coating and no closure. This is real. This is life. 

Licking Wounds is available as a pay-what-you-want download, with all proceeds going to The House of Ruth, an organization that offers support to victims of sexual and domestic violence. It is also available on cassette from Phage Tapes:

– Bob Bucko Jr

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